Friday, January 23, 2009


As advertised, the Obama administration has hit the ground running. An obvious result of many hours spent establishing priorities and carefully planning their initial movements, President Obama has announced five executive orders, and established an impressive team at the State department to begin his foreign affairs strategies.

While five executive orders in the first 72 hours of an administration may or may not be a record, it certainly bodes well for the leadership skills of our new President. The focus of his first executive orders quickly, and clearly established his intentions in the area of civil rights and foreign affairs; which included a review of our detention policies, steps to ensure lawful interrogations, as well as the establishment of ethics commitments by executive branch personnel.

Most controversial was his executive order to "review and determine disposition of all individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay Naval base, and the closure of detention facilities," to be accomplished in one year from the execution of the executive order. President Obama has made it clear that he wants to close Guantanamo, and if warranted, try them in American courts for their crimes. This was one of his campaign promises, and he has delivered on it.

While these executive orders are commendable, his most admirable action in his first seventy-two hours was announced yesterday at the State Department. Not only were two seasoned diplomatic experts named to head our diplomatic efforts in the Middle East, for the first time in recent memory the President and Vice president attended the announcements by our Secretary of State Clinton.

Former Assistant Secretary of State Holcomb was named as special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, possibly the most daunting assignment in the world today. Also named as special envoy to the Middle East, with an eye towards normalization and diplomacy between Israel and Palestine (through the securing of two separate homelands), and between Israel and its Arab neighbors; was a veteran of the Senate, State department, and arguably one of the giants of American politics, George Mitchell.

How Clinton and Obama convinced Mitchell to take the post is a story in and of itself; Mitchell has already established a legendary career of public service, including heading up the successful attempt to end the 800 year "troubles" between Ireland and England. Clearly, between Holcomb, Mitchell and Clinton, President Obama has built another "dream team" which has seemingly unlimited potential in the most vexing and daunting assignments he has to assign.
The first seventy-two hours of the Obama administration? I would give him an "A' to an "A+." And he is just getting started. Something tells me he will be working this weekend. He seems to a
definite game plan, and as promised, was indeed ready on "day one."

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